I have no problem with the fact that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker didn’t finish college. Having a college diploma is not an absolute requirement for serving as assemblyperson, county executive, governor or even president.
Of course our only president without a college degree since the 19th century had a pretty shabby record: He helped to start the cold war. He selected nuclear power over solar as the primary energy source for the government to support. He nationalized steel plants to stop a strike. He let demagogue Joe McCarthy walk all over the country and tacitly approved the red scare. His name was Harry Truman and he also approved the two most barbaric single acts in human history: dropping atomic bombs on two Japanese cities after Japan had started negotiating its surrender, thereby killing from 150,000 to 200,000 innocent civilians in two fell swoops.
Just because most elected office holders have college degrees doesn’t mean one has to have one to succeed, just as the fact that the overwhelming number of business executives have diplomas doesn’t mean that we can’t see the occasional Bill Gates, Michael Dell or Mark Zuckerberg. That virtually all of these non-degree-bearing business titans (Steve Jobs was the very rare exception) came from wealthy families probably matters the same as the fact that many if not all of our past presidents without degrees came from wealthy families. Of course, some might say that Walker, even if born to a solidly middle class background, has been recently adopted by the ultra-wealthy Koch family.
Thus, while I would advise a young person who wants to go into politics to get a degree or acquire a wealthy family, I am not opposed to Scott Walker merely because he dropped out of college when he still had between one and two years worth of credits left to earn a degree.
I do, however, wonder what courses Walker missed by leaving Marquette University early?
He obviously missed some economics classes. He buys into the Reagan program of lowering taxes on the wealthy, cutting basic government services, killing unions and reducing regulations—all the policies that have led to the greatest non-violent transfer of wealth in world history over the past 35 years, taking wealth and income from the poor and middle class and giving it to the wealthy. Study after study disputes the economic premises of the rightwing, and yet they persist in proposing lowering taxes, cutting money for public education, ignoring our crumbling infrastructure of mass transit, roads and bridges, passing laws that discourage unionization and opposing regulations that protect our environment and create jobs in new earth-friendly technologies. We could cynically conclude that these right-wingers are supporting a program that helps their major constituency, the ultra-wealthy, but in Walker’s case, might it be that he missed the econ classes that would help him through some of the more arduous number-crunching of mainstream (read: Keynesian) economics?
Walker probably missed some science courses, too. He has signaled many times that he doesn’t believe in human-caused global warming. He promised not to support any legislation that would raise taxes to combat climate change, and has spoken at the climate-denying Heartland Institute. He is also on record as disliking resource recycling. No one knows Walker’s views on evolution, because he keeps dodging the question. But his comment “Both science and my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God,” seems to suggest that he really doesn’t understand science, since science neither proves nor disproves the existence of a deity. Science investigates how things work, not why they do. Walker’s current attempt to turn the University of Wisconsin, one of the world’s leading research institutions, into a glorified trade school certainly shows a lack of understanding of the importance of new scientific discoveries for the continued well-being and improvement of society.
Another class Walker probably didn’t have a chance to take—or maybe he just didn’t attend the lectures—is Ethics. His reign as Milwaukee County Executive was as full of scandals involving his friends and cronies as has been the political career of Republican Governor Chris Christie, and that’s not a good thing. Walker has been investigated for illegally coordinating contributions from a super PAC. His latest illegal and unethical shenanigan has been to refuse to pay the annual Wisconsin state contribution to state pension programs, another Christie trick. Finally, one has to question the ethics of any candidate who takes millions of dollars from the Koch money machine, since the Kochs are known for injecting false notions into our national discussions about the environment, global warming, taxes and industrial policy.
My question, then, is whether Scott Walker would hold and promote so many false ideas if he had finished college. Judging from the large numbers of diploma-holding Republicans who say they share his beliefs, the answer is probably no. If we want to look for the reason Walker proclaims such ignorant views, we would probably be on firmer ground just following the money—right to the front doors of the Kochs, Adelson, Anschutz, Waltons, Scaifes and other American oligarchs who seek to distort our political discourse by flooding the marketplace of ideas with lies.